Fish Reproductions or Replicas

IMG_3553_edited-2 (800x575)The popularity of fish reproductions or fish replicas has blossomed in the last 25 years.  They are a much larger percentage of our fish taxidermy now compared to 25 or 30 years ago.  The quality and realism has also increased in that time.

There are many reasons why people have reproductions done rather than conventional mounts:

  • They want to release the fish
  • They HAVE to release the fish (catch and release only area, closed season)
  • When they caught the fish they could not afford to have it mounted
  • They wish they would have saved that big fish they caught but filleted it instead
  • They just want mounted fish for decoration but don’t fish or don’t catch big ones

Often people do not know just how a fish reproduction is made.  Many think they are “sculpted” out of clay or some other medium and then painted to look realistic.  The process actually used produces much more realistic results than sculpting.

The start of the process involves molding an actual fish.  The mold is usually cast using a high grade of silicone which is able to capture all of the very fine details of the entire fish.  Right down to the inside of the mouth, each and every scale as well as the fins.  Once the mold is made, multiple castings can be made from that mold.  The material used in the casting process captures even the smallest of detail from the mold.  This casting is often referred to as a “blank”.

This is where our work starts.  Once we have purchased a “blank”, we assemble the fins, head, gills and body.  We then install a glass eye, do some additional preparation to the blank and begin the painting process.  Painting a fish reproduction takes even more skill to produce exacting results than painting a conventional skin mount.  We start from a white surface versus painting a conventional skin mount which involves applying transparent paint over the skin to highlight existing markings.

Brook Trout Reproduction 1When done properly, a fish reproduction should be very difficult to tell from a well done conventional skin mount.  When done improperly, it is painfully obvious that it is not a real mount.

When we do a reproduction, ultimately we like to get a length, girth, weight and good color photo.  Sometimes we get only a length.  If we only get a length, we go off of the fisherman’s description of the body shape (thin, average, fat) and color.  We will often provide photos of different variations in color within the species to choose from.   Once we have the approximate size and color, we can do our part to turn your information into a nearly exact representation of your trophy fish!

Randy

Cleaning Big Game, Fish & Bird Mounts

dusterCleaning and caring for your mounts on a regular basis keeps them looking nice and they will generally last longer.  Two things that have a negative effect on mounts are dirt and sunlight.  First, I will discuss dirt. For a quick, periodic dusting you can use a type of “feather duster”.  The type I use is sold under the name “Trophy Duster”. (see photo)  There are many similar styles of dusters that work well.  The ones with a telescopic handle work well on mounts that are hung up high.

 

This works well for getting most of the dust and cobwebs off.  Far too many times, I have gone in to customer’s homes and trophy rooms to see mounts with dust bunnies hanging off the whiskers and the eyes having a dull hazy look because of the dust.  Carefully running the duster over the mount will take care of most of that.  How often you do it depends on how much dust is in the room.   I would say in most homes, doing this twice a year is good.  Note:  Be carefull when dusting fish with this type of duster as they can get snagged on the spiny dorsal fins.

 

The next stage of cleaning is to take a cloth, LIGHTLY dampened with water and carefully wipe the mount down.  You don’t need to scrub it.  Just go in the direction of the hair or feathers.  You don’t want to wet down the mount.  Just enough water on the cloth for the dust to stick to it.  Be especially careful around the eyes and nose of mammals.  If you get these areas too wet, you could soften the thin skin or even the paints used for finishing.  With birds, I would emphasize a VERY LIGHTLY dampened cloth.  More care has to be taken with birds so as not to get the feathers wet or rearrange them.   This type of cleaning can be done once every year or two.  Again, depending on the room.

 

For bears, coyotes, musk ox and other mammals with fine fur such as these, you can still use the feather duster but I do not recommend wiping them down with a damp cloth.  For those, a strong hair dryer or compressed air works better for getting the dust out of the fur.  As you can imaging, using this method is a little messier, blowing dust around the room if you do it while it is hanging on the wall.  Therefore, it is desirable to take the mount off the wall and take it outside or in a garage.  Compressed air with a blowing nozzle works best but a good hair dryer will do the trick.  The hair dryer actually works well for “grooming” the mount once it has been cleaned.  You can often get the hair uniformly fluffed up.  You can also carefully use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment for these mammals.  You can use the damp cloth for the shorter hair around the muzzle or face.   If needed, you can carefully groom just about any mammal mount after cleaning with an old hair brush.

 

After cleaning the mount make sure that the mount is hanging properly.  This usually means the eyes should be level unless the mount was intentionally done with the head “cocked”.  One last thing that you should do on a shoulder mount is to make sure the hair that touches the wall is neatly tucked behind the mount making a nice clean “line” around the edge.  (See Pictures)

Good.

Elk after

NOT Good.

Elk before

 

 

 

 

If needed, you can use a lightly dampened cotton swab or “q tip” to clean around the eyes, nostrils and the teeth, gums and lips of open mouth mounts.

 

Regarding sunlight, the best filtered, “low E” glass works fairly well to prevent fading.  I say fairly well as I don’t think there is any glass that will prevent all sun damage and fading.  Even indirect sunlight fades mounts.  The less sunlight, the better.  Sunlight seems to fade mammals the most.

Field Guide to Caring for Your Big Game Trophy

Once you have your hard earned trophy on the ground, as they say “now is when the work begins”.   Most hunters can handle field dressing their game and even skinning and processing it.  When you will be mounting the animal, there are a few things you need to do differently.

The first thing you will likely be doing is field dressing your animal.  If you will be doing a lifesize mount, it is important to retain the genitalia.   If you will be doing a rug, it is important that you keep your incision in the center of the belly.  If it is not in the center, it will throw off the symmetry of the rug.  Start your incision at the sternum and continue down to the anus.  Continue field dressing in the normal fashion.  If you will be dragging your trophy out, take care not to damage the hair in doing so.

If you are in a remote area or the animal is too large to drag or carry out, you will need to skin it on site.  If you will be doing a shoulder mount, use the diagram below to make your incisions.  The most common mistake is that the brisket area is cut too short.  Skin the animal up to a point where the neck and skull meet.  Cut the neck bone and meat at that point, leaving the head intact, unskinned.  If you will be doing a lifesize mount, use the diagram below for those incisions.

Shoulder Mount Diagram:

cap-2acap-3_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifesize Diagram:

flat-1

Once you get the cape or lifesize skin off, if you can still feel warmth on the skin from the body heat, you can lay the skin out in a cool shady spot until the heat dissipates.  This may take 15 – 40 minutes depending on the temperature and the type of hide.  Once the skin has cooled down, you will need to put it in a bag.  In the field, it is best to put the skin in a fiber bag such as a feed bag or cheesecloth.  The only time you want to put it in a plastic bag is if the body heat has dissipated and you will be putting it directly into a freezer.

When packing the animal out, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the skin needs to be kept cool.  Once you have the animal out, you will need to get the cape or lifesize skin in a freezer, cooler or to the taxidermist as soon as possible.  If the temperatures are at freezing or below, the time factor is less crucial.   If you are not comfortable skinning or caping your trophy, it may be practical to take the whole animal to the taxidermist for this.

This video helps to demonstrate how to cape out your trophy:

You’ve taken the time to get your trophy AND to get it safely out of the hunting area.  Now make sure you don’t make a hasty decision as to what taxidermist does the work.  Top quality taxidermy is the name of the game.  Remember “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten!”

Is my trophy big enough to have mounted?

This is a question I am often asked.  Someone has hunted  for 30 years and they finally get a decent sized deer.  It may not be a “monster”, but it’s a trophy in their eyes.   Sometimes they don’t get it mounted because they don’t think it is “big enough”.   A “trophy” is in the eye of the beholder.  Here are just a few very good reasons to get YOUR trophy mounted:

  1. You worked very hard for it.
  2. You had a memorable hunt to get it.
  3. You made a great shot.
  4. You experienced it with someone special
  5. It was someone’s first deer, fish, etc.
  6. It is YOUR biggest.
  7. You got it in a special place (home farm, scenic area, etc.)
  8. You appreciate the “art” of taxidermy and like to accent your home décor with your mounts.

I personally have hunted for nearly 40 years.  I have been fortunate enough to hunt around the world for some very unique trophies.  I hunt deer every year, both with gun and bow, but certainly don’t have a pile of “booners” (actually none) or P&Y’s to my name.   If I shoot a buck, it means a lot to me and I normally mount it.  I don’t care if someone else would normally “pass” on that buck.   It is almost always an exciting experience to me and having the mount helps me to relive the experience.

9lll (600x800)I also feel that GOOD QUALITY TAXIDERMY is pleasing to look at and can enhance the look of any home, regardless of the décor.  POOR QUALITY TAXIDERMY on the other hand is what turns some people off to having mounts in their home.

The REALLY big ones make up a very small portion of the game and fish that we mount.  Most of what we mount is done for the reasons shown above.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to save money and get a sub-standard job done on your “trophy” just because it is not “big enough”.  If it means enough to you to have it mounted, it should be done properly.  You are going to display it in your home and if it looks bad when it’s done, it’s not such a “good deal” any more.

Randy

Choosing a Taxidermist for your African Trophies

 

With the popularity of hunting in Africa, many hunters are faced with the decision of who they will trust to mount their trophies.  African outfitters often put the “hard sell” on clients to leave their animals there to be mounted. Many hunters get caught up in the moment and may feel somewhat obligated to the outfitter that has given them such a great experience.

 

They may also get caught up in the low price that many African taxidermists offer.  Don’t make a hasty decision.  You will have these trophies for the rest of your life. A “deal” isn’t a deal any more if you are not happy with the final results.  Especially if you are too embarrassed to hang them in your living room and/or you have to purchase new capes and have them re-done properly.

 

Taxidermy in Africa in general is decades behind the US with regards to quality of work.  I have personally visited big name taxidermy studios in Africa.  I have also seen examples of work from dozens of well known African studios.  I have yet to see anything that I would consider good quality taxidermy coming out of Africa.  I’m sure it exists… somewhere.

Granted, my view is somewhat biased but I am being genuinely honest.  Below I will show some comparisons.  You can hide a lot in photos.  That said, I don’t think there are too many hunters that will not see a big difference even in these photos.  In real life, the difference is even greater.

 I am not saying that all of the taxidermy coming out of Africa looks like this.  I will say that of all the mounts I personally have seen done in Africa (actual customer work and not just show pieces),  are very similar to these photos.  I could also show you similar, low quality work that has been done in the US.  I’m sure you’ve either seen it or been burned by it.  In general I would reiterate, the US is much more advanced in quality than Africa.

 

It all comes down to “caveat emptor”.  Do your homework before you go to Africa.  Remember quality taxidermy is like just about everything else… you get what you pay for!  Call us before your next safari!

 

Randy

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